Fear Physiology

by Bethany Kelsey | August 16, 2020, 13:36 PM

What is Happening?

You open your news app, and the stories hit you like waves.  None of the news is good, and you feel fear wash over you.  “What if” questions barrage your mind, your breathing is all of sudden faster, your heart is beating out of your chest, and you are on edge.  The symptoms only compound the initial fear.  


You are okay!  In fact, you are more than okay.  You are normal!  Your body is doing exactly what it is programmed to do.  It is programmed to survive.  

Are You Serious?

Please hear this and take it into your spirit.  All the fear and uncertainty surrounding current events is normal.  To help ground us all, would you take a little journey with me into the curious and fascinating world of the “fight-or-flight” response?

The Amazing Body

The human body possesses an incredible instinct - yes instinct - to survive.  A piece of that survival instinct is the emotion of fear.  Fear is, essentially, a warning of impending danger.  When the fear warning (“fight-or-flight response) is triggered, the body releases a cascade of hormones that prepares it to survive.  

These hormones rapidly spread throughout the body causing some systems to go on high alert and other systems to shut down.  All of this is happening, once again, in an effort to survive and preserve life.  

Here’s what happens:  heart rate increases, anxiety sets in, sweating begins, blood sugar levels rise, muscles tense (can cause tremors), blood pressure rises, breathing rate escalates, pupils dilate, the digestive system slows down (causes the “butterfly” feelings), and saliva production is reduced (dry mouth).  

In the midst of all this, the brain is rapidly assessing the threat level.  Is the threat real, is the threat perceived, and do the physical responses need to be blunted or accelerated?

That’s Nice.  Now What?

While the brain is rapidly processing and the body is responding, you still hold ultimate control.  Let’s return to the scenario of reading the latest news.  You possess a choice.  The choice is between closing the news or continuing to read and sink deeper into fear and worry.  There is incredible strength in you to choose wisely.  

Jordan and I are dedicating the next blog posts and podcast to the topic of fear, as it is pervasive in our world right now.  We will be exploring its psychology and offering relevant tools to manage it.  If you would like personalized guidance, know that we offer Health Coaching and would love the opportunity to work with you!     

Until next time,

Bethany and Jordan

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